We recently had the pleasure of exploring just a tiny corner of Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina. One of the more well-known hikes within the park is the climb to Kings Mountain Pinnacle. At 1,705 feet, this is the highest point overlooking Charlotte. Because this hike "concludes with a heart-pounding ascent to the summit," we decided to save it for when the kids get a little older. However, with MANY other trails to choose from, we had a great fall morning exploring.
In addition to the small nature museum, highlighting some of the birds and other small wildlife you might encounter in the park, the visitor center is well-equipped with a sizable topographical map outlining the trails (and complimentary paper copies to take on your journey). In addition, once you're out on the trials, you'll see that they are well-marked. Choosing between easy, moderate, and strenuous routes--there's a hike here for just about anyone in almost any state of physical fitness. There are no fees, no permits, and parking is ample.
For our first family hike, we kept things "easy" and ventured off down the Fern Trail which eventually met up with the Lake Trail looping around Shorts Lake. The walking was peaceful and the scenery was beautiful. Equipped with their notebooks, the girls stopped often to sketch plants, insects, beaver-chewed trunks, and even a turtle sunbathing on a log. Just beginning to turn for the season, the trees were still mostly canopied in vibrant greens at our altitude. However, we were greeted by a few that were lit up crimson, orange, and shockingly yellow in the sunlight against clear blue skies. It really was a gorgeous way to spend our Sunday morning.